Thursday, August 31, 2006

New Europe = New Coke? or What's The Matter With Poland

The Polish Prime Minister is in Brussels to try to smooth over the rough relations that have developed of late with their fellow European Union member states. Things seem to be a bit odd in Poland and I'm wondering how seriously we need to be concerned about it.

A recent EU report found some troubling trends in the country.

In a resolution adopted in Strasbourg, the deputies condemned "the general rise in racist, xenophobic, anti-Semitic and homophobic intolerance in Poland," blaming it in part on religious platforms like Radio Maryja. "The EU should take appropriate measures to express its concerns and notably to address the issues of the participation in the government of the League of Polish Families, whose leaders incite people to hatred and violence," it said.
At a remembrance ceremony at Auschwitz last year, groups representing homosexuals were not invited to participate.
The director of the Museum of the Former Camp of Auschwitz did not reply to a request from Poland’s gay activist NGO Campaign against Homophobia to lay a wreath to the gay victims. Neither was the Campaign’s delegation officially admitted to the ceremony of commemoration.
This, of course, is that illustrious "New Europe" that our administration was dearly hoping would replace that stodgy old Europe with their socialized medicine, free college, and liberal vacation policies. There are also now rumblings about trying to bring back capital punnishment.

Poles elected identical twins, Lech and Jaroslav Kaczynski as President and Prime Minister from the "Law and Justice" party which is a hard right-wing political organization. They may not be as far right as, say, France's National Front, Holland's List Pim Fortuyn, or Austria's Freedom Party. But that's not saying a lot, especially when they partnered with the "League of Polish Families" party which can be comfortably placed amongst this company. The LPF have recently restarted the nationalist children's organization "All-Polish Youth."

The pull of these groups has led even Solidarity to fall in line and the legendary founder of the organization, Lech Walesa recently turned in his union card and resigned because of it.
Mr Walesa said he did not like the policies of the Kaczynski brothers and would boycott Solidarity's anniversary celebrations so he would not have to appear with them, the BBC's Adam Easton reports from Warsaw. Mr Walesa once fired the twins when they worked as his advisers while he was president in the 1990s. "His approach is to first destroy and then think about what to build," Mr Walesa said last month of the country's current president, Lech Kaczynski.
I don't know if this is localized (things seem to be worrisome in neighboring Lithuania, as well) or a normal part the nationalizing process (once the honeymoon of liberation wears off and many problems still remain, scapegoating is to be expected to some degree). But I'd be interested in hearing thoughts. Helmeut? Ducksters?